Celebrating the release of By Light of Desert Night, we sat down for a chat with Swiss actress and starring lead Lara Pictet.
By Light of Desert Night is an exciting new drama film from director David Stuart Snell which centres on three childhood friends as they reunite for a camping trip out at Raven Rock.
However, a weekend of catching up soon turns sinister when destructive secrets are revealed, challenging their friendship and threatening their lives.
Fuelled by a playful parade of twists and turns, at the film’s core is an emotionally charged performance from Lara Pictet. She has previously starred in such shorts as Smile and Sealed, while it’s also worth noting that she produced the 2018 film Beast directed by Ben Strang.
With David’s film making its way to audiences this month, we thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with Lara and discuss her biggest role to date…
By Light of Desert Night is credited as your feature-film debut, what enticed you to the script?
“Well, a lot of different things. Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I felt like I was in the story myself for the entire read-through. I always read the script once before reading it from the perspective of the character that I’m reading for. When I read it again from the point of view of April I just saw all of the beautiful arcs that she goes through as a character and the beautiful journey that she goes through to find herself. I felt that was really touching.”
What challenges did you face stepping into April’s headspace? She certainly goes through it!
“When I trained in drama school, they gave us a lot of practitioners to learn from, to see what kind of methods work best for you. I always got very close and attached to Stanislavski’s method which is very naturalistic and extends to finding qualities that you yourself have with the character. So, what I tend to do is write an autobiography of sorts from the character’s point of view with any information that I have that’s in the script and then I relate to experiences that I’ve had in the past. Actually, April and I share a lot of very similar qualities. So, it was a little tough to go back into that sort of headspace but it was very therapeutic. It was like I was my own psychiatrist and I was working through things that I hadn’t made amends with.”
Are there any films you watched during production to help inspire you? Did David or the cast recommend any viewing?
“Not so much. But, I did watch a few films like Hard Candy and Gone Girl; they have such powerful female characters but are also just so eerie. With preparation for the role, it was more about understanding the emotional journeys these characters went through… it’s important to make sure it’s not just about externalising these feelings but internalising too.”
There are so many great, sly digs and one-liners laced throughout. Did David leave much room for improvisation or did he take a strict ‘stick to the script’ approach?
“It’s so funny because we didn’t know each other up until our recall that was all together and we all wanted to get the part so bad. So we were all like ‘what is your favourite thing to do?’ ‘what’s your favourite food?’ ‘what do you hate the most?’ Then we sort of knew our little ticks… during rehearsals and filming, we really wanted to bond and connect, to be able to show that we did have a link that bonded us from our childhood. So, we’d always play tricks, there was a lot of pranks going on. Even shooting the car scenes, when the camera wasn’t rolling we were singing super loud and cracking jokes left and right. With David, even though the script was written in a very natural way, he was okay with us paraphrasing one or two words. For him, it was about what sounds the most natural at that precise moment. If it felt good and natural it went in the film.”
Themes of friendship and betrayal are central to the narrative. What do you feel audiences can learn from April’s ordeal?
“I think that, at the end of the day, friends come and go in our lives. No matter how long we’ve known people, I feel like the person you can trust the most is yourself and you always have to follow your gut instinct. Obviously, not everything goes as planned in life, things always change and life gets in the way, no matter how much we try to control every aspect of it. Ultimately, sometimes we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and what remains most important are the actions we take moving forward. That says a lot about who we are… that’s kind of the underlying message about April that I hope audiences will see; that it’s not just black and white. There are so many factors in life, but it’s what you do that will make a difference in the long haul.”
I see you have a number of projects in the pipeline. How has the experience of playing April prepared you for the future?
“Oh, so much. I have so much gratitude for this project and to be on the set for two weeks with all these people… I mean, they can teach you so much in drama school and in training but really, when it comes down to it and you’re with the same people 24/7 working on things where the tension is very high, it really teaches you a lot. You learn so much about how to work as a team and make sure that everybody feels a sense of community. That’s one of the most important things I’m gonna come away from this experience with, also the fact that I was able to work with such amazing people. Everybody respected each other enormously.”
Which film would you recommend double-billing By Light of Desert Night with? What would make the perfect double-feature?
“Thelma and Louise. Maybe even start with that and then it’ll put you in the mood for By Light of Desert Night.”
By Light of Desert Night is available to watch courtesy of the Sky Store, Prime Video, Virgin, Chili Cinema and Pluto TV from Monday, May 25th 2020.